Starks - the Good Guys....
In my head the Starks and their allies are a combination of the Medieval/War of the Roses great earls of the North such as the Percy's and Warwick (lands in the North) mixed with the Reiver families of the 16th century like the Nixons and the Johnstones and I'm sure this is the intention of George Martin. I think of castles like Bamburgh and Alnwick as well as the fortress towers called Peels scattered through the Borders.
Of course it could just as easily be seen as medieval France with its cultural divide between the lands of the North and the South (langue d'oil and Langue d'oc)
as well as its great and semi independent great dukes such as of Burgundy, Brittany and Aquitaine.
In fact the more I think of it the more I like this version especially during the 14th century with the great bands of brigands ruling over great swathes of France as wars raged between the great Lords. For anybody interested i have added a sort of random booklist at the bottom of the blog.
However not to get too sidetracked lets start with the basics, swordsmen and archers. In reading my ramblings here bear in mind that I have never played the game so any comments refer to analogous historical units rather than in game capabilities.
These look very much like Saxon or Norman Heavy infantry types, Huscarls trained to fight in a shieldwall but without the kite shield. The mail 11th century helmet and round shield are in contrast to the Lannisters with their plate armour and heater type shields. The Starks are definitely throwbacks in Westeros technology.
This was the first unit I painted and set the colour scheme. I wanted them a cold colour and settled on Vallejo m/c Mirage Blue which is a greyish blue as you can see. Sprayed on over black primer and then lightened with increased white. If i felt it was too much a quick glaze of blackish blue brought it back down.
I assume France must have painted its Mirage fighters this colour at some point unless its actually the colour of a Mirage in the desert. I've seen neither however I do remember the old summer holiday TV series The Aeronauts - link here for those in UK over 50 ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoxHhYyRIL0
Anyway I like the colour as with the dark armour and half hidden faces it gives the Starks an identity as brooding Northerners, always ready with a complaint about southern jessies or a friendly clip round the ear with an axe.
Stark Bowmen. Im not an expert on bows (or anything really) but I'm guessing these are to represent the longbowmen of much English Myth making. Destroyers of the French at the battles of Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt and equally destroyed by the French at La Brossiniere, La Patay and Formigny. Three battles which don't really appear in English mythologies for some reason....A simple domed helmet and mail coif with some leather layers are all boys get to protect themselves and just a dagger for hand to hand. I assume that they have arrow carriers out of shot as they all only have one arrow each and no way of carrying any more!
Of all the Stark units the cavalry is the least advanced and look all the meaner for it. These are basically Dark Ages Carolingians with mail, cloaks, fur and bad attitudes. These guys dont look like they have any idea of tactics other than a solid charge and possibly run away if things look dodgy. Classic medium cavalry but with a big wolf. Once again the colour choice fits the crouched brooding sculpts. With lances they could have been Border Reivers but with just sword and round shield they could be any medium cavalry roaming Europe in the 9th and 10th centuries, No wonder the Lannisters mock them they are literally from another millennium.
The Viking Berserkers....The Umbars. A cross between the Vikings and a Reiver clan like the Armstrongs. These guys make the Stark swordsmen look advanced eschewing armour in favour of long hair, beards and a pair of axes. I can see these guys getting on their Harleys and cruising Westeros for a fight and I assume that in game they are inheritors of the Berserk role played by Galatian naked infantry in ancients games of old.
When I posted pictures of this unit there were some questions about why i hadnt painted the banner as per what seems to be canon ie.
There are 3 reasons, firstly this banner (and some others in GoT) break all the rules of heraldry as well as being literally too figurative. There is no way this could be duplicated on banner after banner, shield after shield as heraldic devices were meant to be. This would lead to confusion on the battlefield
"Ser, a new unit approaches"
"What is their banner?"
It appears to be either a dancing monkey or a bear juggling Ser."
"Herald do we have any dancing monkey/juggling bear allies?"
Additionally orange is also not a colour in Heraldry.
Secondly in terms of colours it would be horrible with the rest of the scheme and ruin the look of the unit. Everything else is about cold and this banner just isnt.
Thirdly I like the reference to the Cerne Abbas Giant, It seems to suit their pre civilisation look as well as being instantly recognisable.
So thats the end of my first look at the Starks, Below is a personal list of good reads on the History behind the game. I dont claim that its an exhaustive list but some corking reads.
The Hollow Crown - Dan Jones on the Wars of the Roses - very readable
A Distant Mirror - Barbara Tuchman, brilliant on the 14th century as lived by real life notable Enguerrand de Coucy
The Steel Bonnets - George Macdonald Fraser - the Border Reivers between England and Scotland
The Hundred Years War - Jonathan Sumption, 4 volumes to date, exhaustive but surprisingly readable. The final word on the subject (vol 5 soon i hope)